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Black Friday Scams - Anti Counterfeiting body offers eight ways to avoid being conned by dodgy online retailers into buying fake and dangerous goods

20th November 2023

Excitable Black Friday bargain hunters could be exposed to online scams in their quest to grab a deal warns Phil Lewis, Director General of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group -

Operating behind sophisticated looking sites and social media, criminals use fake trademarks, brands, emblems and bogus certification labels to entice customers into thinking that they are buying genuine, safe products at prices that are too good to be true. These products often turn out to be nothing more than shoddy and dangerous tat.

Spotting counterfeit products online is more difficult than at a shop or market stall, but it can be done. Here are eight tips on how to avoid buying fake goods:

Your 8-point checklist

If it sounds too good to be true, the chances are that the item is fake.

Very low prices mean the product hasn't been tested and certified.
Trust your instincts, do not buy such products.

Be suspicious of deeply discounted prices
Stick to reputable and trusted traders and websites offering legitimate deals. If you see a particular "beauty deal", but there is no ongoing comparable offer or sale on the brand's website or official stores, it's unlikely to be an authorised seller.

Check the website's quality
To create an authentic-looking site, an online fraudster will replicate the look and feel of a brand's official website. In such cases, consumers need to be vigilant. Criminals usually do not pay attention to website details but often try to deceive shoppers by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand in the website address. Grammatical errors or long, elaborate URLs which do not resonate with the brand’s name suggest that the website is fraudulent. If you fall for buying these dupe products, you are almost certainly exposing your personal and financial details to the fraudster as well. The result? You could be trapped in an endless scam.

Check the address of the shipper
Just because a site ends with does not mean that the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address showcased or if there is just a PO Box or email mentioned on the website, consumers should be wary and must exit the site immediately. Additionally, the Contact Us section should include the business address, so, be suspicious if the address is absent. Copy and paste the web address onto this website to check where the lender is located. These measures are essential as many websites selling fake items have their domains registered in China.

Research products before you buy and check online for reviews, especially if you have not bought from the seller previously.
Be mindful of fake reviews; too many positive reviews squeezed into a few days may indicate a fraudster trying to bulk up reviews to sell dupes. Look out for warning signs, such as poor spelling, grammatical errors, similarly staged user pictures, and similar comments. It’s worth viewing relevant forums and blogs before buying anything from suspicious websites, as affected consumers will often take the time to warn others by sharing their experiences.

Ensure the website’s address begins with ‘https’ at the payment stage.

Look for a highlighted lock symbol in your web browser; it indicates a secure payment gateway.

Be extremely wary if asked to make any abroad payments
Avoid money transfer systems such as Ukash, Western Union and many others.

Look out for details of the seller’s returns policy.
Again, rogue traders don’t offer such customer service features.